Some Florida lawmakers have set their sights, again, on regulating the Brightline passenger rail project.
Of course, the proposed Miami-to-Orlando rail line isn’t singled out by name in bills filed for the upcoming legislative session. But it’s clear, given the geographic proximity of the bills’ authors to the rail project, Brightline is foremost in their minds.
Brightline (formerly known as All Aboard Florida) is scheduled to begin passenger rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach by the end of the year, with full service to Orlando International Airport still several years away.
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, has refiled a bill that sputtered and died during last spring’s legislative session. Among other things, Senate Bill 572 — also known as the “High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act” — would give the Florida Department of Transportation authority to modify certain aspects of any passenger rail service in the state and impose penalties for violations.
It also would strengthen public-disclosure policies and give local governments a greater voice in decisions about installing fencing along rail corridors.
From the perspective of Treasure Coast residents opposed to Brightline, there is a lot to like about Mayfield’s bill. But its prospects for passage are virtually nil.
The Federal Railway Safety Act, passed by Congress in 1970, established the regulatory framework for freight and passenger railroads. With limited exceptions, federal law supersedes, or preempts, state and local efforts to regulate railroads.
Historically, rail companies have tended to prevail in court when challenging states’ attempts to regulate their operations.